It is with a great amount of relief and joy and relief and pleasure (and relief, did I mention relief?) that I can finally announce I've finished all the drawing and hand-painting work on all the illustrations. There's still a fair amount of editing to be completed, so it's not quite so huge an announcement as saying everything is done, but the end is certainly very much in sight now.
Today I also wanted to share with you a bit of an overview of how much work is involved in each illustration. For this book I've been working in a hybrid traditional and digital way, doing both pencils and watercolours by hand and then compiling them digitally. Although I'm very comfortable working exclusively traditionally, I find this hybrid style produces an end result that is cleaner and crisper for printing, but still retains the charm and texture of traditional work.
Everything starts with a sketch. Then another. And another. Then I decide none of them are right, make a cup of tea, and do several more. Eventually, a sketch emerges that I'm happy with.
I use thin paper (not quite tracing, but semi-transparent) and draw my final pencils on new paper. This is something I do whenever I have multiple characters or a lot of action. If the initial sketch is simple enough, I will usually do the final drawing directly over it.
Using a photocopy and transfer paper, I transfer the pencils onto watercolour paper, then paint in with watercolours. I then scan both the pencils and colours in.
I make the pencil layer transparent and touch up the watercolour layer so it fits to the lines. I add shading and another digitally inked layer. If the illustration has no background, this will also mean cutting out everything around the colour and pencil layers, and re-pencilling the outlines on the whole drawing. I'm feeling slightly tired just thinking about how many drawings I've done this to.
Extremely important: tea break.
Colour balancing, more inking, checking against previous drawings for consistency, possibly a dash more tea, tweaks and formatting.
All in all, the whole process for each image takes 12+ hours. I had honestly thought when I first started that the smaller vignettes would be quicker and easier, but as I continued to draw I realised they needed just as much attention and detail as the larger spreads. As the work progressed, I also returned to many of the earlier images to touch them up, add more detail or, in some cases, redo them completely.
I know this has taken a lot longer than I predicted, and I am grateful for everyone's patience. We're on the home stretch now!